Peoples' Weather Map


A Strict Definition of “Blizzard”: Beginning with the Winter of 1856-57

Kossuth county, Iowa

County historian B.F. Reed proposes, in 1912, a strict definition for an “old-time blizzard.”

  1. Snow on the ground covering every portion of this region
  2. Snow must be settled and covered with a crust
  3. Upon this crust must be another 6-10 inches of loose snow
  4. Wind blowing with terrific force
  5. The weather gets intensely cold
  6. Little obstruction that presents the snow from drifting
Horse-drawn carriage trudging through snow in early 1900’s

In other words, he says, “any snow storm that does not cause great suffering to those out in it should not be likened to an old-tie blizzard.” Mr. Reed may sound like a Grandpa who insists that he walked to school 5 miles in the snow, but he does have a point when he focuses on suffering. Weather conditions in themselves don’t determine who suffers.
The winter of 1856-57 sets the standard for Mr. Reed. Folks caught outside, unable to find their way, lost their limbs or even their lives. He tells the story of a November 1856 series of blizzards that forced Calvin Tuttle and his son to leave their wagons of provisions in Black Cat creek until mid-January when they appeared out from under the snow. Those same wagons couldn’t be moved until April.
The winter of 1874 brought a lot of snow to Kossuth County. Eight inches of snow fell and the wind blew in the winter of 1909-10. Other winters’ repeated snow storms required shoveling of the train tracks or the roads, every day. Though perhaps “disagreeable,” none of these storms qualifies as an “old-time blizzard,” according to Mr. Reed.

Lakota (Germania), Iowa in the late 1800’s

Source: B.F. Reed, History of Kossuth County, 1912.